A school board member with Louisiana’s Tangipahoa Parish is apologizing after posting a photo of a noose to his Facebook page, sparking widespread outrage.

School board member Mike Whitlow reportedly shared the photo on Monday, Feb. 19, with the caption, “If we want to make America great again, we’ll have to make evil people fear punishment again.” The picture was originally posted on a Facebook page titled “Weapons Vault” in October 2017, local station WWL-TV reported. The same image was shared again on Monday.

Whitlow quickly deleted the post and apologized, but the damage was already done. Other Facebook users had taken screenshots of the offensive post and reported it.

“I apologize to anyone who was offended by a post I recently shared. It has been deleted,” Whitlow later posted from his account. He followed up with a second statement expressing his sadness over the “misplaced reaction” sparked by his racist repost.

“As a resident and public servant of Tangipahoa Parish, I value public safety and have been upset by recent violent attacks on innocent people in our great nation,” he said. “Personally I believe that, as a country, we would be better served by more stringent sentences of imprisonment for violent offenders. Yesterday, I came across an article on Facebook that advocated for such stiffer sentences for violent offenses and simply shared the article on my personal Facebook page.”

“The article had no racial or discriminatory overtones whatsoever,” Whitlow added.

His explanation did little to quell the outrage, however. Tangipahoa Parish council member Louis Joseph, who’s Black American, blasted Whitlow over the shared post, saying he was “extremely offended” by it.

“We all know the history and meaning of the hangman’s noose, especially as it pertains to African Americans,” Joesph wrote in a letter to Action News 17. ” … As a member of the school board, what message are you sending to the students, employees, and parents of our school system, let alone people that may be considering moving into our parish? With your mentality, who can trust you to do what’s right or to do the right thing?”

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